What Nigeria can learn from top agro exporting countries

There remains an untapped potential for Nigeria’s exports of agricultural and food products to global markets, as the country is yet to sharpen its competitiveness and add value to the bulk of its commodities.

Top global exporting countries have been able to drive their agricultural and food exports through value addition.

Countries such as the US, Vietnam, Brazil, and China add value to a large proportion of their agricultural commodities meant for export.

Data from the country’s Trade Report shows that despite the steady growth in the country’s agricultural exports in recent times, the country’s agro exports to total exports still stand less than three percent.

In 2016, total agricultural exports stood at N60.7billion, accounting for 0.7percent of total exports for the period. In 2017, total agro exports grew by 180.7percent but accounted for 1.3percent of total exports.

By 2018, agro exports increased by 77percent, accounting for 1.6percent of total export for the period. In 2019, agro-export declined by 10.8percent, accounting for 1.4percent. In 2020, the value of agricultural export increased by 19percent, accounting for 2.6percent of total export for the period.

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In 2021, the country’s agricultural export grew by 57percent yet it still accounted for 2.67 percent of total export for the period.

The low contribution of agriculture to total export is because the country still exports about 90 percent of its agro commodities raw and is yet to develop a new strategy to promote the export of processed commodities.

Nigeria is among the top growers of agro commodities such as cashew, cocoa, sesame, sorghum, and ginger among others.

But the inability of Nigeria to process a large percentage of these agro commodities before exporting is responsible for the loss of billions of dollars which the country could have earned if they were processed.

About 90 percent of the total exports for 2016 were exported raw according to Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, and chief executive officer, Best Foods Limited.

According to Ijewere, for every amount earned in the exports of raw agro commodities in 2016, Nigeria would have made about ten times the value of what was made if it has processed all the commodities that were exported during the period.

Similarly, experts noted that more revenue is earned in value chains that are closer to the consumers.

According to experts, adopting the strategy of driving value addition helps a country edge its farmers against price violability in the international market, while citing the Brazilian model for its coffee industry as an example.

Also, experts in the sector, stressed that some challenges needed to be addressed to expand the country’s export for it to contribute to structural change and help promote the sector’s growth, which is vital for sustaining economic growth and development.

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